Filtered for animal news

13.20, Wednesday 9 Mar 2022

1.

Militarized Dolphins Protect Almost a Quarter of the US Nuclear Stockpile:

Since 1967, the Navy has been training dolphins and sea lions (and probably other marine life) for military applications such as mine clearing, force protection and recovery missions. The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program deployed military dolphins as early as the Vietnam War and as recently as the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

There was a burst of working with dolphins in the 60s/70s and it seems this bore some fruit.

The dolphins patrol the seas and identify mines and enemy divers, and attach buoys to them so that they can be avoided/picked up/otherwise dealt with.

Militarisation aside, I am weirdly into the idea of animals having jobs (crows, sheepdogs, etc, as previously discussed).

ALSO:

The above article indicates that Russia, North Korea, and Iran all have dolphin programs too, leading to this WILD headline:

Iran May Have a Fleet of Communist Killer Dolphins.

WHICH MAKES ME ASK:

Well, what are the natural politics of a dolphin anyway? Would it be better or worse if they were libertarian killer dolphins? What if dolphins are utilitarians, and you have to make the case that social good trumps individual harm to get them to kill anyone?

2.

Headline: Farmer gives cows virtual reality headsets to reduce anxiety and increase milk production.

Kocak says the move is already paying off. He’s given the headsets to two of his cows and noted that milk production went up from 22 litres to 27 litres a day.

And what are the cows seeing through the VR goggles? Apparently, it’s visions of the outside world.

‘They are watching a green pasture and it gives them an emotional boost. They are less stressed,’ he said.

Some quirks. Cows, as prey animals, have their eyes on the sides of their head. So each cow needs two headsets. The photos are something else.

And they needed to tweak the colour palette: Cows can’t see red or green – they’re only able to perceive dull shades of yellow and blue.

This is awful? Though interesting to try to pick apart exactly why.

Two starting points:

  • There’s something wrong with economics such that buying and maintaining VR headsets is the more “rational” decision versus paying a person to simply hang out and touch and chat with the cows all day, which I suspect would have a similar effect.
  • There’s a profound disrespect for the cows as co-inhabitants of our planet, to turn them into objects of pure production.

But both of these points need to be hooked into a wider moral framework to understand why they are bad. A job for another day.

3.

How many T. Rex have there ever been? 2.5 billion.

We estimate that its abundance at any one time was ~20,000 individuals, that it persisted for ~127,000 generations, and that the total number of T. rex that ever lived was ~2.5 billion individuals, with a fossil recovery rate of 1 per ~80 million individuals or 1 per 16,000 individuals where its fossils are most abundant.

Ref.:

Charles R. Marshall et al, Absolute abundance and preservation rate of Tyrannosaurus rex. Science 372, 284-287 (2021).

The fossil recovery numbers check out: only 42 individual skeletons have ever been found.

(I didn’t know that Tyrannosaurus roamed only in what is now North America. Or that there were possibly 3 different species.)

42! Those lucky stiffs.

The number of humans who have ever lived: 107 billion. Let’s say we’re halfway through. So double it for an estimate of the number of humans who will ever live: 214 billion.

Then assume a similar fossil recovery rate, meaning: 2,675 preserved human skeletons in, say, 100 million years, dug up by the highly-civilised communist dolphin people of the deep future.

2,675 is a pretty exclusive club. But not great odds to be part of it.

If you want to better your chances then, I don’t know, hang out near bogs and volcanos a bunch, something like that, that’s the lesson.

4.

In the book Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, dinosaurs are the company’s second product. First they make cat-sized elephants, to help raise money from investors, but the mini elephants are always sick and cross.

Startups eh.

Hammond was flamboyant, a born showman, and back in 1983 he had had an elephant that he carried around with him in a little cage. The elephant was nine inches high and a foot long, and perfectly formed, except his tusks were stunted. Hammond took the elephant with him to fund-raising meetings.

Alas, the elephant was prone to colds, particularly during winter. The sneezes coming through the little trunk filled Hammond with dread.

And:

Hammond also concealed from prospective investors the fact that the elephant’s behavior had changed substantially in the process of miniaturization. The little creature might look like an elephant, but he acted like a vicious rodent, quick-moving and mean-tempered.

For what it’s worth I would totally consider getting a pissed-off teeny elephant as a pet. I already live with a pissed-off teeny tiger and she’s got claws.

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